First Minister hosts stakeholder meeting.
The Scottish Government has further committed to doing all it can to ensure the safety and integration of unaccompanied children, following an expert roundtable meeting today.
The roundtable meeting, between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Equalities Secretary Angela Constance, and COSLA, local authorities and key stakeholders, focussed on a commitment to bringing forward a national framework agreement on unaccompanied children, as well as exploring further funding and capacity support.
The First Minister met with a group of unaccompanied children prior to the meeting, where she heard first hand of their traumatic journeys to Scotland, and the challenges they face while trying to integrate in a new home.
“Every child should have the best start in life and grow up in a safe and loving environment. Yet for far too many young people this is not the case. The on-going efforts of local authorities, partner organisations and local communities are to be commended in their work to make Scotland a safe and welcoming place for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.
“The already distressing situations that these unaccompanied children have faced now demands a humanitarian stance from all parts of the UK. We should show our humanity and offer refuge to vulnerable unaccompanied children who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves displaced and separated from their families and homes. They deserve to feel safe, have an opportunity to rebuild their lives and fulfil their potential. We should recognise the unique skills and contributions unaccompanied children make to society in Scotland.”
Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said:
“These children have endured incredible trauma and hardship, and we must work together to ensure they are cared for as any other child would be in Scotland.
“The meeting today has outlined the work required to take this forward, and to make sure we all do the best we can for these children, who need a safe place where they can get back into education and rebuild their lives.
“The work between local authorities, the third sector and the Scottish Government has been leading the way in the UK – now is our opportunity to continue that good work.”
Cllr Stephanie Primrose, COSLA Spokesperson for Education, Children and Young People said:
“This is a human tragedy and that is how Scottish Local Government is approaching it – from a humanitarian perspective – first and foremost.
“We have a track record of providing protection to unaccompanied asylum seeking children. COSLA has worked tirelessly over the past year with all 32 Scottish local authorities to explore ways in which they could play a role in supporting the greater number of unaccompanied children who are becoming refugees.
“Glasgow City Council, attending with us today, have looked after hundreds of these young people in the past ten years. There is a huge will within Scottish local government to help, and this was evidenced in the exceptional number of placements that were offered up to unaccompanied young people arriving from Calais under the Dubs agreement.
“Despite much progress being made, there are still fairly significant barriers to taking this work forward. We therefore welcome the First Minister’s commitment to explore further funding and capacity support and look forward to working in partnership on this.”
Local authorities are responsible for looking after unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Scotland also has a bespoke and well established Guardianship Service, funded by the Scottish Government, to provide additional support for unaccompanied children. Through the Dubs amendment Scotland has provided a safe place for 35 unaccompanied children, and Scottish local authorities are currently responsible for a further 75 who arrived via spontaneous routes.
The meeting was attended by representatives from:
COSLA, Glasgow City Council, City of Edinburgh Council, Aberlour, Scottish Refugee Council, Social Work Scotland, Care Inspectorate, Police Scotland, UNICEF UK, Church of Scotland, Save the Children and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.
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